Updates from Friday, Dec. 20:
Orioles vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said that the Grant Balfour-to-Baltimore deal "will not come together," according to Eduardo Encina of The Baltimore Sun:
Duquette said O's deal w/ Balfour "will not come together." Said team will "Never close the door, but we're going 2 turn attn elsehwere."— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) December 20, 2013
Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun touched on the situation in an earlier report:
With the decision on Grant Balfour in limbo, the Orioles are expected to turn their sights to former Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney, according to an industry source.
The Orioles had several discussions with Rodney before Balfour agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal, but nothing progressed at that time.
Updates from Thursday, Dec. 19:
According to MASN Sports' Roch Kubatko, there may be a hangup in the deal:
#orioles deal with Grant Balfour in serious jeopardy due to issues with physical that a source said "need to be resolved."— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) December 20, 2013
If this is the case, Perez and Rodney remain on market. O's have checked medical records on Hanrahan and Bailey. But no Axford or Benoit— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) December 20, 2013
Later in the evening Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the press conference will be delayed:
Hearing Balfour press conference def wont happen on Friday now.— Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) December 20, 2013
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman confirmed the deal and added that Balfour will have to pass a physical to complete the move. He also clarified the terms of the contract, noting that Balfour will get $15 million including deferred money:
balfour agrees with orioles, $14M for 2 years, pending physical. $500,000 deferred each year. @masnRoch had— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 17, 2013
balfour gets the $7M each year, plus $500,000 deferred. so deal is for $15M counting the deferred $. #Orioles— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 17, 2013
Jerry Crasnick of ESPN adds the two sides hope to finalize the contract today:
The two sides hope to resolve final contract details today, at which point Balfour would have to pass a physical. #orioles— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 17, 2013
Balfour spent the last two seasons as the closer for the Oakland Athletics. He racked up 62 saves over that span with an ERA below 2.60, making him one of the game's most efficient ninth-inning pitchers.
Which closer would you rather have?
Instead of re-signing him, Oakland made a deal with the Orioles to acquire Jim Johnson in exchange for a package including infielder Jemile Weeks.
So Johnson heads west to fill the Athletics' closer void, and now Balfour signs with the Orioles to eliminate the hole left by Johnson's exit.
After the deal with Oakland, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter was asked about how the team would replace Johnson and Nate McLouth, especially in terms of team chemistry. Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun provided his response:
You asked a great question. You can't put that sabermetrics on Johnson, Nate. ... We hope to replace them with guys that bring similar contributions other than playing the game. ... There are some other guys that might step up, having a year under their belt they hadn't before. Let's face it, chemistry comes from winning games, to start off with. You can start with good chemistry out in the spring. But if you go 0-30 in April, I bet your chemistry isn't real good. It runs hand in hand.
Showalter clearly understands replacing Johnson, who posted back-to-back 50-save seasons with the Orioles, won't be easy on the field or in the clubhouse. That said, adding a veteran like Balfour should help limit any potential issues.
David Cameron of Fangraphs believes it's a signing with plenty of value for Baltimore:
It's not often I think free agent closers are good values, but 2/$14M for Grant Balfour seems like a bargain.— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) December 17, 2013
When you factor in the Orioles also added a useful utility player like Weeks in what amounts to simply switching closers, Baltimore definitely emerges from this segment of the offseason wheeling and dealing on the positive end.
Balfour should make a seamless transition to the Orioles and ensure the ninth inning remains something Showalter doesn't have to worry about.